“I am not absentminded. It is the presence of mind that makes me unaware of everything else.” – G.K. Chesterton
Nathan stared out the car window. He was sitting at the back seat of the jeep, content now to be left alone to his thoughts. The Mode Men magazine lay on his laps, open and untouched for the last twenty minutes.
The normally bustling streets of Victoria Island, the main business and financial district of Lagos state, was now steeped in hollow quietness. Except for a few workaholics, who obviously had no comprehension of the words, the seventh day God rested, most office buildings and business centres were closed for the weekend, rendering the commonly noisy streets quiet and almost empty. A few cars sped by, probably out for some fun, Nathan mused. Just as they were, according to Toinette, who had badgered him and Duncan into taking her to the Palms Shopping Mall.
Not that Duncan looked badgered, he thought glancing at the laughing man, manoeuvring the car through the mildly sunlit streets. He shook his head, turning his speculative eyes back on the streets, he couldn’t imagine a worse fate than strolling from shop to shop, oohing and wowing at the Palms.
But he blamed himself for getting ensnared into this mad Saturday shopping spree. The last ten days had been a constant series of forgetfulness and absent-mindedness, which had never ceased to elicit teasing remarks either from Toinette or Duncan. What had finally sold the lets-all-go-shopping idea to Toinette had been his frequent visitation to the supermarket. He’d found all kinds of odd excuses for his regular trips to the supermarket – his running out toiletries; an aftershave he’d forgotten to pick up; a hand lotion that he didn’t remember had finished – his list of excuses had been endless and nosey devious Toinette had been keeping count. And so when she’d suggested they all go shopping at Shoprite, she’d been smart enough to add, “since obviously you’ve acquired a new passion for it lately, dad.” Not wanting to be the butt of a year-long teasing he’d given in.
He sighed. The whole to and fro Supermarket trips had all been in vain of course. Since it was obvious she didn’t work there, it had been stupid of him to hope he’d run into her again. She probably didn’t live in Ikeja environs and didn’t need to come that far just to grab a few things. Christ, if only he wasn’t constantly haunted by light-brown eyes and maple pink cupid bow lips!
He shook his head, trying to clear his clouded mind. Turning he found two pair of eyes staring at him, mischief lurking behind their knowing smile.
They were already at the Palms Plaza and he didn’t even notice. He nodded his head, yeah, they were surely going to razz him about this again.
“Get out of the car, both of you.” He ordered.
Ignoring their hilarious hoots, he got down from the car, making sure his soon-to-be-empty wallet was in his pocket. If he was lucky, they’d be inside the Plaza before they started the teasing, he thought, marching ahead.
“For the umpteenth time, Kike.” Valerie was on the passenger’s seat of Kike’s Toyota Corolla. She was so exasperated, she felt like knocking Kike over the head with the large black shaggy deer tote handbag sitting on her laps. “I have not been thinking about that damned guy, whatever his name was.” She had been. And his name was Nathan. But she had no intention of confessing that to Kike.
She’d suffered enough teasing since she woke up the morning after Valentine’s Day wild party, not only with a splitting headache but also a shocking dismay as she recalled her very detailed and somewhat embarrassing account of meeting the damn Nathan. And whatever her over-indulged mind had chosen to forget, Kike had cheerfully reminded.
And since of late, she’d been somewhat absent-minded, a simple result of being stressed at work… which of course she’d told the pig-headed Kike… an excuse which had been met with more sniggering and teasing. And just a few days ago when she’d run out of sanitary towels and decided to stop over at the Supermarket, Kike hadn’t missed the opportunity to torment her of going to that particular supermarket with a hope to run again into the unscrupulous playboy. As if she would!
Kike threw Valerie an amused glance, the frown clearly telling her she was still rejecting the idea of her being attracted to the tall, dark and handsome Nathan with a Colour me Pink loving lady in his life, who’d seemed familiar even if they can’t yet fathom where she must have seen him before.
“Well, I just hope you won’t go blank on me while we are shopping, girl.” She said as she drove into the Palms parking lot, eyes quickly scanning for a good spot to park.
“I don’t go blank.” Valerie ground out through clenched teeth, snapping off her seat belt. “Park the car already. I need some air.”
Kike gave a throaty chuckle. “Chill, girlfriend, I’m looking for a nice spot so we don’t get trapped in and needing to wait for another driver after shopping.” She gave the car a quick swerve as she spotted an empty space up front, just beside a Honda jeep. “Bingo!” She exclaimed gleefully, expertly swinging the car into the space.
“Now darling, you can get out of the car for that much needed air.” She teased, snapping off her own seat belt. She laughed at Valerie’s groan. Opening her car door, as she proceeded to join her friend who was already stalking towards the main entrance.
The sheer gleaming formal black colour of the Honda Pilot beside her caught her eye, causing her to grin. She loved this car, it was big, masculine and black, all three qualities she enjoyed in a man. And this was a he car.
“And who is blanking out now?” Valerie asked sarcastically from where she was standing a few feet away.
Kike chuckled, locking the car. She jogged over, put her hand around Valerie’s waist, drawing her into a playful hug, an easy breezy smile on her lips. “Come on, girlie, let’s see what Shoprite’s got for us this Saturday afternoon.”
Grinning and forgetting she was mad at her, Valerie followed her into the teeming malls of the Palms.
***Two hours later, their grocery shopping over and with a strict instruction from a in-a-hurry-to-hit-the-ladies Valerie not to move, Kike was inside a wrist watch store staring at gorgeous looking wrist watches and reciting in her head a I-won’t-buy-anything mantra.
But one look at the transparent dial Kenneth Cole wrist watch on the rack in front of her, she knew she just has to get it for Marc. Requiring a second opinion, she turned to the tall man beside her. “Could you maybe help me out here? I …” She looked up and shrieked at the top of her lungs. “Oh my God! It is you! It is Nate Phillips.”
Nathan stared at the skinny ebony black lady grinning widely and doing a fair imitation of a hysteric skip jump. He looked consciously around the store to make sure no one was staring at them. The two men there completely ignored them, focused on their shopping. Thank God for big men, he thought with relief.
“It is you.” Kike repeated in an awestruck tone. “Nate Phillips. Unbelievable! Nate Phillips, award winning gospel artiste 2012. Wow!” She grabbed his left hand with her own and gave it a little squeeze.
Nathan merely smiled. Praying silently she wouldn’t grab any other part of his body.
“I’m so sorry.” She smiled. “God, I must be freaking you out.”
You think? Nathan continued to look at her with mild wary eyes.
“You must get this all the time, fans jumping all over you.” She said laughing in her slightly raspy voice.
Nathan gave her a rueful smile. “Jumping is okay, is the other things that get really scary.”
Kike threw back her head and laughed, it was like a big baby’s gurgle and it made Nathan grin. “God, I think that must be the most honest thing a celebrity ever said to me.”
His lips curved, showing off small dimples. “Sorry for the arrogant brutal honesty.”
“Oh I don’t think it’s arrogant at all.” Kike shook her head. “Just honest.” She laughed, then exclaimed. “Oh but you are one really gorgeous man, aren’t you? The media hardly do you any justice at all.” She shook her head when she observed Nathan’s slight embarrassment. Oh he’s a modest one, she thought, good. “Got to tell you, I love your song – The Prodigal Son – I honestly think it’s your best song ever.”
“Many thanks.” Nathan said rich deep-toned voice, smiling. “Best song I ever did.” He gave a small wink, “yet.”
“Wow!” Kike rolled her eyes. “And that voice. It is simply glorious. You should have it insured.”
He laughed, relaxing now. There was something unpretentious about this lady. He appreciated it. “I’ll keep the advice in mind.”
“Forgive my manners.” She tapped her forehead with her hand. “It simply gets poorer when it meets a celebrity. My name is Kikelomo Adeyemo, you can call me Kike.” She stretched out her hand.
He shook her hand. “A real pleasure Kike. Guess you know who I am. But friends and family call me Nathan.” Nathan smiled. Then turning back to the rack asked. “So what are you doing over here?” He gestured to the masculine wrist watches. “Looking to get something for that special someone?”
She looked at the wristwatches, shook her head, gestured for him to lean closer, he did. “I am not even supposed to be here.” She confided in a low conspiratorial voice. “I was given express orders to remain standing outside and to not even window shop.”
Nathan’s lips twitched. But he imitated her solemn look and voice. “Who gave this express order? Your wicked stepmother?”
Kike chuckled, how apt. “Actually it’s my wicked stepsister.”
Nathan laughed. “So where’s wicked stepsister now?”
She threw a glance at the glass window. Then gave a little screech. “Oh my, she’s back and I’m in trouble.” She grabbed Nathan’s hand in a quick shake. “It was really nice meeting you but I must dash now.” She was already making for the door.
He shot a glance to the glass window, beginning to believe there was actually a wicked stepsister.
He decided to follow her out, after all he wasn’t really going to buy anything. “I’ll follow you out.” He said right behind her. “See if I can maybe help save you from wicked stepsister … she sounds frightful.”
The shop attendant watched them leave with a disappointed look, he’d expected the Superstar to at least buy something expensive and maybe give him a big tip. His face did brighten up though when Nathan slipped something into his hand as he stepped out
Kike stepped out the door to find Valerie a few yards away, lips set in a firm line, hands folded across her chest and eyes totally unsmiling… a true image of wicked stepsister. Swallowing the rising laughter, she said. “Hey you are back, how are you feeling now? And where is Femi?
“Let me guess, Femi would be the security personnel you hired to watch over our trolleys while you went spending money you don’t have?”
“I didn’t but anything.” She defended instantly raising her empty hand as proof. Deciding a bright sunny smile wouldn’t hurt, she quipped cheerfully. “You won’t believe who I met just now inside that shop.”
Valerie simply raised a brow, refusing to be taken in by the sunny smile. “Let me guess, a wizard who cast a spell on you and forced to leave our stuff with a security man?”
Kike laughed. Avoiding the question she pointed instead behind her. “Nate Phillips!”
“Who?” Valerie demanded exasperated. Looking over Kike’s shoulders, her light-brown eyes slammed into Nathan’s dark ones.